Ethiopia’s Education Policy and Laureate Gebisa Ejeta’s Adventure

By Oromsis Adula*

Imagine waking up every day, walking ten to twenty miles to school and back, to only sit in a classroom with no blackboard, no books to read from and no school lunch provided. That is the situation Dr Gabisa Ejeta, the 2009 FAO World Food Prize Winner, found at his former elementary school after 30 years in exile.

This is a shocking indication of how Ethiopia government’s education policy is hurting and destroying the lives of Ethiopian people. Schools all over Oromia are in similar or worse conditions. Millions of poor people send their young ones to school in the hope that they will be educated and someday help alleviate their situation. However, only few manage to go beyond 10th grade.

After ten arduous years of squeezing their meager resources to send their children to school, most families are finding themselves at crossroads. They are often torn unable to decide whether they should sell all other cattle’s or other belongings to pay for their children’s education or let the children go back to farming, the primary source of subsistence in the country. Whereas very few manage to pay their way through two or three years of college (mostly at private institutions), others have taken up homelessness or a life of desperation.

It is even more troubling to see young people doing whatever it takes to pay their way through an often expensive private college to only end on the streets begging for jobs that are nonexistent. In Oromia for example, not only you have to look for jobs that were never there, one is also forced to join the puppet organization – OPDO.

Do you care to work to uproot the Ethnic Apartheid Education Policy of TPLF in Ethiopia?

For Gebisa, this trip to Ethiopia is a triumphant return to a place where he left his heart when he came to the United States as a graduate student in Purdue’s agronomy department in the mid-’70s.

But it is a bittersweet return. Coming home to see such abject poverty pains his heart every time he visits.

“When I am in other parts of Africa, it doesn’t bother me as much because I am so focused on my work,” he says. “But in Ethiopia, it is different. It is a very difficult thing to see.”

Read Purdue University’s Agriculture Connections managing editor Tom Campbell’s moving account of Dr Gabisa’s visit to his elementary school of many decades ago.

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